The Curse Of The Expert

Posted on September 16, 2013


I’ve recently completed a very beta version of Circuitous and added it to the front page of The Puzzle School. It only has a few levels so far, but I’ll be adding more as soon as I can.

As I go through the process of creating new levels, though, I’m reminded of just how difficult it is to get past the “Curse of the Expert”.

I’m not even close to actually being an expert in electrical circuits. I only started learning about them a few months ago as I started to build Circuitous. For weeks I struggled to get a basic handle on how circuits work, but as soon as I understood I completely forgot what it was like to not understand. I literally could not remember where I had struggled to connect the dots.

All of a sudden basic electrical circuits seemed completely obvious and intuitive, while just a few days prior they had seemed completely opaque and complex.

This has actually made it very difficult for me to create levels in Circuitous. Every level I create seems painfully obvious to me, but when I try the level on a colleague they may struggle with it quite a bit. Maybe even enough to suggest that the leap I had made from the previous level was too much.

I really think the “Curse of the Expert” is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to learning new material. It’s just so difficult to understand how complex something may seem if you don’t understand it completely. Once you understand it it seems obvious, but before that happens you don’t know what you don’t know, so your lack of understanding is essentially infinite in nature.

The more we figure out ways to provide baby steps down the path of learning something new, the more likely it is that people will truly understand the new material. It’s one of the main reasons I like The Puzzle School so much is that it becomes obvious when you’ve jumped too far ahead in the learning when someone can not figure out the incrementally harder challenge you just created…